Dempsey is the central figure as the U.S. MNT’s all-time leader in WCQ caps (41) and the co-WCQ career goal-scoring leader with Landon Donovan (18). Sharing the USA record for career goals alongside Donovan with 57, Dempsey enters the window one goal behind Argentina’s Lionel Messi (58) and two behind Spain’s David Villa (59), while Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo leads all active internationals with 79 career goals. Can Dempsey take it a step further and move up the international active player ranks, particularly ahead of Messi and New York City FC’s Villa?
Friday’s matchup is the most pivotal of the Hexagonal for either side. A winner between third-place Panama (2-2-4, 10 points) and fourth-place U.S. (2-3-3, 9 points) would control their own destiny during this final qualifying stretch. The U.S. has never lost to Panama in World Cup Qualifying (5-0-2 all-time) and looks to improve its 11-1-6 all-time record against Los Canaleros. Panama’s roster includes six MLSers, and aside from midfielder Armando Cooper of Supporters’ Shield-winning Toronto FC, the rest of the group is heavily in the thick of the race for the playoffs. Two of the mainstays include Dempsey’s Sounders teammate and defender Román Torres and Wondolowski’s Quakes teammate Aníbal Godoy.
Will Dempsey move up the record books with the help of his potentially playoff-bound MLS teammates for the U.S., or will Panama play spoiler with its handful of MLS standouts?